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Finding The Leader Within (Keys To Zen Leadership)

Most believe that leadership is an innate quality that some have, not others. They believe that leaders are born not made. Nothing can be further from the truth. Each one of us has the potential to stand tall, be a light to others, clearly define a vision and mission and take charge. Within every individual an "Inner Leader" is waiting to be born.

Most shy away due to various fears ? such as fear of their own strength, distancing familiar friends, and public criticsm.. However, these and others fears can be easily handled when the 10 Keys To Leadership are known and applied. The path to becoming a leader is actually a path of personal growth, learning how to utilize all of one's resources and becoming all that one can be. A couple of the keys follow:

Key 1 ? Be An Example Of What You Want Others To Be.

We all have expectations of others, and many leaders spend most of their time trying to get others to meet their standards.. They demand loyalty, dependability, and enthusiasm, want others to be one hundred per cent committed to getting the job done. These are fine expectations. However, before placing them upon others, make sure you live them yourself fully.

You cannot ask more from others than you ask from yourself. Who you are always speaks much more loudly than what you say. Take a personal inventory of all the qualities you want in others. Then take a personal inventory of how you express these qualities in your own life. Pick one quality a day and work with it. Be aware of how and when you could be expressing this quality and what different it would make, both to yourself and others.

Key 2 ? Say What You Mean And Do What You Say

This is also called being authentic, or aligned communication. When we think one thing, say another and then do something else, not only are we personally out of alignment, but the basic message we are communicating is that we cannot be trusted. We are out of balance and integrity.

There are hidden agendas operating and we are not living from the fundamental truth of who we are. Integrity is a key quality needed in leaders. This is developed and communicated by direct, honest communication.

Say What You Mean ? do not play games and manipulate others. Manipulation always backfires. Although it may be exciting to be on your team, if others are manipulated, sooner or later they will feel used and recoil. A true leader inspires trust. He/she can be trusted. This is developed when you say what you mean and do what you say in a timely manner. When you keep your promises to others, they will keep their promises to you.

Key 3- True Leaders Serve Others, They Do Not Dominate

Many individuals think of a leader as having power over others. These leaders mistakenly use their power to dominate and control. This is not leadership, but domination. It is a sign of weakness, not strength.

True strength comes from understanding that the real function of a leader is to serve, to actualize a larger vision, be dedicated to a cause beyond one's personal concerns. Rather than think that others are there to serve you, realize that each person on your team is someone you are there to help. It is your job to bring out the best in him/her.When you help them become all they can be, when you share your vision and bring it alive in them, you are leading truly..

This key can be implemented by putting your attention on the well-being of others, not just necessarily on your goal.. Others, sensing your concern, feel cared for and uplifted. They naturally work to the best of their capacities and offer support in return.

Key 4 ? Acknowledge Others Every Step Of The Way

We take so much for granted. When others take actions that are helpful, most of the time they go unnoticed. A true leader makes a point of noticing even the smallest actions of those he is leading, and acknowledging them each step of the way. Continual acknowledgment not only encourages further action, but is a form of gratitude.

It builds momentum both in the relationship and project. The individual who has been acknowledged feels known and valued. Their contribution is validated. This builds a strong sense of self worth in them and allows them to be more creative as well.

Not only is it necessary to acknowledge others, but also oneself. Take time to write down the steps you've taken each day, particularly those that have brought you closer to your goal. Consider this a book of wins. Read your wins over daily. Take a moment and acknowledge to yourself all you have accomplished. Otherwise, our actions blend together and are quickly lost track of. We are usually only aware of what is left to do, and often do not experience fulfillment each step of the way.

KEY 5 ? Give Credit For Success To Others

Rather than be in the limelight, reaping the praise for a job well done, give the praise and acknowledgment to others. Mention their contributions. Give credit where credit is due. Do this publicly. Not only will their loyalty to the project deepen, but along with it their good will.

When you take all the praise for yourself, jealousy and competition appear.. Power struggles, fear, and resentment saps energy and momentum. Obstructions and obstacles arise. The less praise you take for yourself, the more the project will thrive.

This is leadership which recognizes that no one can achieve a goal alone. It is based upon an ancient saying, "The more we praise others, the more are we praiseworthy ourselves."


Dr. Brenda Shoshanna is a psychologist, speaker and author. This article is based upon her most recent book, Living By Zen, (Timeless Truths For Everyday Life), Dr. Shoshanna is the relationship expert on i.village and long term Zen practitioner. Her work focuses upon integrating psychological and spiritual principles in everyday life. Some of her other books include Zen And The Art of Falling In Love, (Simon and Schuster), Zen Miracles, (Finding Peace In An Insane World), Wiley, What He Can't Tell You And Needs To Say, (Putnam) and many others. She can be reached at Her personal website is (212) 288-0028

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